Lucio Fulci’s first thriller wows with confident pacing, stylish camera-work, and strong performances. I went in cold and suggest you do likewise. The less you know, the better.
If that’s too big a leap of faith, then I shall set the scene. Jean Sorel plays George, a doctor desperate to keep his clinic solvent. His asthmatic wife, Susan, despises him and he’s carrying on an affair with a photographer named Jane. While away in Reno with Jane, George receives word that Susan has died. Unbeknownst to George, Susan had taken out a large life insurance policy and named George the beneficiary. Of course, the police and insurance company suspect foul play. Things worsen for George after he encounters Susan’s doppelgänger, Monica, a burlesque dancer and sex worker.
I’ll reveal no more, save that Fulci sets his story in post-Summer of Love San Francisco and treats the city like a fourth lead. The location photography lends a palpable atmosphere and—along with the doppelgänger plot—invites comparisons to Vertigo. Indeed, Fulci crafts a grimier, gender-power-reversed remix of Hitchcock’s classic, and I enjoyed it—even though it should have ended with the fade to monochrome in the restaurant.